One of the most popular New Year's Resolutions is to lose weight and/or increase fitness. More than 45% of people make this resolution every year. The first two weeks of January, gyms are packed, search engines see a 35% jump in "workout" as a search term, and morning talk shows all feature easy ways to get in shape for the new year. Unfortunately, by February, 73-80% of these resolutions have been abandoned. So why? One of the biggest reasons it fails is because people simply push themselves too hard too quickly. The excitement of getting started with a new routine can really get you going, but if you haven't worked out intensely in a while, it is really easy to overdo it and suddenly be incredibly sore or exhausted the next day, which can lead to "Oh, I'll take a day off to recover" which leads to never going back. To avoid running into this, it is important to take care of yourself outside of your new fitness routine. Here are some things to help:
1. Stretch - Many people know cardio and strength training helps condition their muscles and make them healthier, but many people forget about stretching. It is a common misconception that you only need to stretch if you want to increase your flexibility, but stretching can also help you prevent injuries and soreness. You know how you feel sore and burn-y after lifting something heavy? That is lactic acid - the by-product of muscles working. Stretching helps increase circulation which keeps muscles healthy and also helps flush away lactic acid, keeping you from getting too sore. Stretching also helps your muscles from getting injured. When working out or lifting something heavy, your muscles can get something called micro tears - little tears in your muscle fibers. These micro tears are usually no big deal, and we routinely get them all the time doing everyday things and usually we don't notice them at all. However, when a micro tear happens, it can fill in with scar tissue - again, something we all have and usually doesn't cause any issues. Stretching keeps this scar tissue long and loose rather than tight and bunchy so your new strength training doesn't feel like an injury.
2. Massage - Massage also helps with increasing circulation, flushing lactic acid, breaking up scar tissue, alleviating soreness, and many other things that can minimize the achy side effects of your new fitness routine that might make you tempted to quit. In addition, it can also help your mental state. Reducing stress through getting a massage helps flush away the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline which sometimes can contribute to bloat around the midsection. Massage also gives you a chance to help your mental calm and clarity which can go a long way towards making your workouts more effective and seeing results faster.
3. Avoid unrealistic expectations - It is very tempting to go hard into your new workout and eat nothing but smoothies and salad for two weeks, then put on your "skinny jeans" only to still have them not fit, so you get frustrated and give up. Often, it can take as much time to undo something in your body as it takes to do something to your body. So if you have been gaining weight for 5 years, it will be rare to lose that whole 5 years of weight in two weeks - or if you do, you might have other health issues. Keep your workouts simple, healthy and consistent, stick with it, and celebrate small victories rather than getting frustrated if you don't achieve the big ones right away.
Overall fitness resolutions are a case of 'slow and steady wins the race'. The temptation to push yourself to do too much too soon will almost always result in frustration and pain which leads you to be more likely to give up. If you want to push yourself hard, don't forget to take care of yourself outside of your fitness routine as well.